Dir: Hans Peter Molland. Norway-UK. 2000. 105 mins.
Prod Co: Norsk Films, Freeway Films. Int'l sales: Trust Film Sales: (45) 3686 8788. Prods: Tom Remlov, Petter J Borgli. Co-prods: Kastro Khatib, John McGrath. Scr: Hans Petter Moland, Kristin Amundsen. DoP: Philip Ogaard. Prod des: Janusz Sosnowski. Ed: Sophie Hesselberg. Mus: Zbigniew Preisner. Main cast: Stellan Skarsgard, Lena Headey, Ian Hart, Charlotte Rampling, Louise Goodall.
Despite a trio of gutsy, bruising central performances, Aberdeen demands that its audience swallow one too many narrative implausibilities to keep the story on the road and the characters locked in conflict with their personal demons. A valid European co-production rather than an ungainly Europudding, it still represents a hard sell that will need all the critical support it can muster. A prize-winner at Karlovy Vary, mixed reactions at its Edinburgh Festival screening suggest a film that requires careful handling and a committed distributor to help it secure an audience.
Lena Headey is Kaisa, a career-driven, hardboiled legal eagle who heeds the request of her dying mother (Rampling) and journeys to Norway to bring her estranged, alcoholic father Tomas (Skarsgard) back to Scotland for one last chance to become clean and sober. Refused passage by an airline, the fractious duo are forced to travel by ferry and car as the film develops into an overwrought road movie where both father and daughter confront their past resentments and current inadequacies.
Unwilling to soften the bitterness or anger of their characters, Headey and Skarsgard bring a painful honesty to their performances. Ian Hart is equally noteworthy as an uncomplicated truck driver who offers support and love along the way. Handsome photography from Philip Ogaard and insistent music from Zbigniew Preisner all contribute to the high quality of the production but the flaws in the screenplay tend to undermine the technical craftsmanship on display.
Aside from its casual disregard of Scottish geography, the journey seems needlessly elongated and turns increasingly melodramatic as it moves towards an overplotted climax that fails to deliver the emotional knockout that might have been expected.